Research Paper


The Effect of TV Stereotyping of Asian Americans and Public Perceptions of Them In Today’s American Society

William Ross Y. Tolentino

De Anza College



This paper explores the origins, problems and effects of stereotypes with a focus on Asian Americans and their beliefs, culture, history and contemporary psychological and sociological mindset and how negative and positive social constructs affect their mental and physical well-being in a society where racism remains rampant across all forms of media which favors white people over colored. While Pham (2004) believes trends are changing to reflect the true diversity of the United States, American society itself is having problems with institutional racism still present as the country was built on the back of slaves and the oppression of colored people as whitewashing is still a common practice in Hollywood. Asian Americans themselves are only now becoming seen in some media in a positive, realistic, humane portrayal. This paper attempts to shed some light on why Asian American stereotypes should be eradicated and why it is beneficial for the United States to do so.


The Effect of TV Stereotyping of Asian Americans and Public Perceptions of Them In Today’s American Society

The media rules our lives. It has become not only ever present in everything but it has become an entity on its own, dictating what constitutes as reality to an all but eager mass of geniuses, crackpots, conmen, arsonists, anarchists, women, soldiers who see videos and images as real as fiction writers see their imagined world in their imagination. The difference being the former is a slave and recipient while the latter creates and enforces the rules of their world. This indifference in rationalizing truth from reality has become so blurred it becomes difficult separating lies from facts, given that there’s always multiple perspectives when it comes to people of a certain race yet stereotypes keep being propagated due to outdated beliefs still being worshipped as if truth is an absolute when it’s relative.

Literature Review

The United States has always been a racist society no matter how much it has progressed and relaxed its attitudes on immigrants especially from Asia, the third group in their racial hierarchical classification below Africans. While stereotypes seem insignificant, underneath its surface is a mental health problem few acknowledge and most ignore. Dismissing things may delay it but no amount of effort can eradicate a social epidemic when the population is more than a million, whose capabilities can’t be maximized due to how they are viewed by media and those who receive it without scrutiny.


According to Ramasubramanian (2011), stereotypes originated as propaganda during the two World Wars in order to rally American patriots to fight the ‘yellow menace.’ The label became synonymous with people from mainland Asia (China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei) and to some extent, the people from the Pacific Islands. Oppression and mistreatment however, go way back during the westward expansion of the United States under the guiding light of Manifest Destiny and God. In the 18th century, Chinese immigrants built with blood, sweat and skill, the railway systems which helped capitalism grow and turn the United States into the richest country before the end of that century. Records show they were treated as harsh as other people of color alongside new white European white immigrants like the Irish and Jews. By the time quarter of the 20th century, the attitude of the United States was that of a paranoid warlord afraid if he doesn’t engage in war. his rule will be disputed and its belief of its own exceptionalism and its ideals will no longer be practiced much less spread throughout the globe. This xenophobic preferential treatment led to Japanese Americans being tortured and abused despite serving the US Military in their wars against people of their own race. Given that this was during wartime, atrocities were inevitable. However, about two decades later, things turned upside down.


When the civil rights movement erupted and Martin Luther King Jr. emerged as the leader of the discriminated, counterculture also emerged. People from all social backgrounds are now questioning the American system which has already failed them with the occurrence of the Great Depression. The 1960’s marked the first time people took to the streets and protested the ills and wrongs done to them. But whatever dreams most had turned into ashes in their mouth as both Malcolm X and King died much reform can be made but since then, the United States has ignored the plights of people of color, though attitudes towards them has become more accepting yet self-esteem and image of self is degraded thanks to media depictions on screen full of bias and high standards, praising a particular sort and under or misrepresenting everybody else.


Northup (2013) conducts an experiment on how deep the media’s scarring goes. In his research sample which pits black women with white, he notices the colored group as having more problems with their self-esteem as they themselves are not seen much on screen with most believing they are insignificant. It gets worse once body type comes into the picture. Fat women have lower self-esteem and are more likely to engage with criminal activities than their healthier counterparts as images portrayed in television gravitates towards heroines who are sexually promiscuous, long legged, in tip top shape and smart which don’t constitute nor express the differences and celebration of being simply women in point of fact. White women, while having less problems, also experience low self-esteem as images of themselves are almost always blonde and blue-eyed which makes most bleach their hair in order to fit with the media’s preference. The same with black women, some of whom also turn their hair blonde or undergo surgical procedures in order to adhere to media standards which worships and showers love onto to Victoria’s Secret models and Playboy bunnies with no substance or depth to add to their character.


The Asian demographic was largely absent in the experiment and while stereotyped, didn’t get affected by body image since as culture, tradition and history in the East has always accepted all body types as acceptable, though these days, this fact is not true anymore. The image of a smiling fat monk comes to mind as well as a female queen still considered powerful despite her obesity are relics of a bygone age. Asian media also does its own fair share of stereotyping. The degree which is alarming is the continued exploitation of Asian women in films where both mainstream and the so called “experimental” media makers all portray Asian women as domesticated housewives with no life outside their homes, who are there as ornaments, properties a man has control over, a machine unable to function without an operator. If portrayed in a positive role, say a warrior or a leader, their emotions crucify them or the setting doesn’t reflect contemporary times, hinting at a repressive regime. There are exceptions but not in Asia such as Rush Hour as Pham (2004) points out but only succeeds in liberating Asian males much like The Walking Dead  and  Lost. From films such as My Sassy Girl and Oldboy, women serve as partners who are inferred to be in need of a muscular figure despite the misogynism it sometimes entails in Asian society though there are exceptions like animation maestro Hayao Miyazaki’s film Spirited Away.

Discussions and Limitations

The experiment proves how much impact the media plays with perceptions of reality and conditions people in certain ways that are detrimental to their health. While the media influence can be ignored, especially for people who notice and reject any assumptions made by society, the problem is, stereotypes spring up due to a common misappropriation fed by biases by people ignorant of reality and while Asians are no longer considered inferior, the new ‘model minority’ stereotype hurts most as the label makes assumptions and dismisses those who don’t conform to a common belief. Parents have a hand in the new stereotype and are affecting their children’s performance, self image and overall happiness due to oversimplification of what constitutes as complex behaviours. A welding of both eastern and western thoughts seems impossible due to the inherent opposition of both with the other.

Conclusion and Future Study

The United States has always been a country of immigrants. Its success depends on those who come to its shores for the American Dream. But since culture and values are different in the east, it poses problems for those assimilating and becoming American. Asian identity always tasted different and this continues being so even in the face of American ideals and values. Shen (2015) attempts to show how most Asian immigrants are still affected by the cultures and values of their homes in the east which is incompatible with the American ideals of individuality and freedom. Most asian cultures have a respect for family blood ties and would sometimes, despite its weaknesses still thrive to obey their parents even at the cost of their mental health and physical well-being as the indoctrination to certain values has been so embedded in their system, it becomes difficult breaking. As a rule, this occurrence is not universal but almost always happens due to certain factors. One being economic hardship. Parents believe in money and equate it with power and relegate their children into careers from the STEM group of subjects, ignoring artistic endeavors and stamping out free expression, leaving their children distraught, alienated, suppressed and disillusioned. The high suicide rates are no coincidence. Stereotypes make it even worse. Asians who don’t adhere to the assumption are treated unfairly and ridiculed in most cases. People start asking questions. Why are you doing things which don’t make sense? Why don’t you be like everybody else? Then again, there’s no such thing which makes sense for long and each individual is as unique as the DNA code inside them. The world is a chaotic messed up place with no anchor to hold onto with the only permanent thing being change itself. While a lot of people are looking into solutions, the  most obvious would be to eradicate stereotypes as these incessantly affect perceptions and create self fulfilling prophecies. The problem with media portrayals is that the world it’s constructed serves to increase the divide between different classes, races, genders and ideological beliefs being itself, a product of a hysterical society in need of a better image or no image at all.



Northup, T. (2013). The Role of Image Body Size, Race, and Familiarity on Subsequent Evaluations of the Self. Southwestern Mass Communication Journal, 28(1), 1-33.

Pham, M. T. (2004). The Asian Invasion (of Multiculturalism) in Hollywood. Journal of Popular Film & Television, 32(3), 121-131.

Ramasubramian, S. (2011). Television Exposure, Model Minority Portrayals, and        Asian-American Stereotypes: An Exploratory Study. Journal Of Intercultural Communication, (26), 4

. Shah, H. (2003). “Asian culture” and Asian American identities in the television and film industries of the United States. Simile, 3(3), N.PAG

Shen, F. C. (2015). The Role of Internalized Stereotyping, Parental Pressure, and Parental Support on Asian Americans’ Choice of College Major. Journal Of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 43(1), 58-73.



About willtolentino92

Storyteller in love with how people overcome various odds no matter what. A testament to human will and ingenuity.

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